What's so sweet about Dolcetto?
Even as noteworthy a source as the late Frank Schoonmaker's New Encyclopedia of Wine declares Dolcetto "soft, lush, supple ... at its best within two or three years of the harvest." Jancis Robinson comes closer to the mark in her excellent pocket-size Guide to Wine Grapes, calling it "gentle, fruity and fragrant" but also noting that Dolcetto can be a startlingly tannic grape with potential to make a dark, astringent wine.
Perhaps the name of the grape is misleading: It literally means "little sweet one," although a second theory - based on another premise that fails in real-world tasting - is that the Dolcetto grapes are unusually sweet when freshly picked from the vine.
The simple fact is that Dolcetto is not a lightweight wine but a sturdy, gutsy Northern Italian red; and it pays not to underestimate it in your search for vinous enjoyment.
Many Dolcettoes (or Dolcetti, if you prefer the Italian plural) simply carry the generic name of the region, but the most interesting versions carry the name of the specific sub-region in which the grapes are grown: Among others, Dolcetto d'Alba, Dolcetto d'Asti, Dolcetto d'Acqui, and perhaps best of all, the full-bodied and earthy Dolcetto Dogliani.
Today (below) we sample an Italian original from Dogliani and a delicious and well-made American version, made from the same grape grown in the Santa Barbara region up the California coast from Los Angeles.
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A pair of Dolcettoes
Dark ruby with an orange glint. Deep black fruit and a whiff of exotic spice in the aroma. Full, tart and tannic, deep and brooding fruit. A California wine by a first-rate winery that pays due respect to the Italian style. (Oct. 11, 2000)
Francesco Boschis 1997 Pianetto Dolcetto di Dogliani ($13.99)
FOOD MATCH: Both wines go very well with bucatini all'Amatriciana, Roman-style pasta with pancetta, tomatoes and onions.
Wine notes in 'shelf-hanger' format
Whether you're in the wine business, a collector, or simply a wine lover who enjoys saving published wine reports for your reference, we've introduced a new feature on Wine Lovers' Page that I hope you'll enjoy: Our published wine-tasting reports now appear online in a familiar "shelf-hanger" size and format as you'll often see in wine-store displays, to make it easy for wine merchants or collectors to print them out and post them where the wine is displayed. This service is free for use by wine shops and the public; we ask only that the Wine Lovers' Page name and URL be left intact, and that these reports be used with the specific wines rated, not different bottlings or vintages. To see the wines above in this format, click to http://www.wineloverspage.com/wines/wt101100.shtml. For an index of all our wine reports, see http://www.wineloverspage.com/wines, where all reports since Sept. 22 are in the new format.
How do you use your wine notes?
Last month we asked how many of you take notes on the wines you taste, and found - to nobody's great surprise - that more than one-third of us take notes on all or most of the wines we taste, and well over half of us record our tasting experiences at least regularly. This week we return to the same issue from a somewhat different perspective, seeking to learn what media we use for taking wine notes, and what we do with the notes once we have them. I hope you'll take a moment to drop by the Wine Lovers' Voting Booth, http://www.wineloverspage.com/votebooth, and add your opinion to the list.
Robert Parker's Wine Advisor & Cellar Manager
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Vol. 2, No. 39, Oct. 16, 2000